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How Memphis’ investment in teacher salary schedules will increase paychecks

A woman is at the front of a classroom with a few students in the foreground of the frame

Memphis-Shelby County Schools is putting millions more toward salaries and bonuses, which officials hope will encourage teacher retention and entice new teachers to fill hard-to-staff roles.

Andrea Morales / for Chalkbeat

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Memphis-Shelby County Schools teachers will get salary raises and be able to move up the district’s salary schedule faster under an agreement with the two teachers unions.

The new schedule is one part of $78 million in new funds the district is putting toward salaries and bonuses, which officials hope will encourage teacher retention and entice new teachers to fill hard-to-staff roles.

Teacher raises will vary wildly for the upcoming school year as MSCS implements the new scale, offering some teachers thousands in salary increases. But teachers who have worked in Memphis schools the longest will benefit least.

In Memphis, as in other places, teacher pay is generally determined by years of experience and by post-secondary degrees. A salary schedule combines these factors in a table that shows educators how much they will make. 

Memphis teacher pay 1

What is changing with Memphis teacher pay?


The budget for salaries and bonuses this school year increased by $78 million. Here’s what those funds will pay for:
  • At a cost of $27.3 million, MSCS introduced a new salary schedule for educators, reducing the number of steps from 30 to 18 and adding a lane to compensate teachers for education specialist degrees.
  • The new schedule raises the minimum salary by $1,000 to $47,000 for new teachers with bachelor’s degrees.
  • For existing teachers, transitioning to the new scale could provide raises as high as $13,000 — and as low as $300 for the most experienced educators.
  • Following months of appeals to the school board, mental health employees will be paid according to a new salary schedule.
  • Several teachers are eligible for bonuses in hard-to-staff positions.

Educators on a 10-month contract can find their new salary and raise by inputting their gross pay in the calculator below. The calculator does not apply to teachers working in iZone schools. New salaries take effect Aug. 4.

The district’s previous schedule charted a 30-year path from a teacher’s first year to their maximum salary. The new schedule shrinks that time to 18 years, with a similar range — about $22,000 — between minimum and maximum pay on the scale. 

With fewer steps, “teachers will see their salaries grow faster” on the new scale, the district said. 

For some of the teachers who negotiated the schedule, the end result has been lacking. A political bargaining process yielded a schedule that Memphis’ two teacher unions didn’t agree upon — particularly when it came to pay for older teachers. Plus, both unions sought higher salaries than MSCS officials said the district could sustainably afford. 

MSCS administrators and the school board have said they will seek funding sources to reach a $50,000 minimum salary for educators.  

What Memphis teachers will make for the 2023-24 school year

Teachers who are on 10-month contracts and do not teach in iZone schools can use the calculator below to determine their salaries under the new schedule. 

Input your salary before deductions, rounded to the nearest dollar. Don’t include bonus pay or pay you made for extra teaching assignments, such as summer school. 

(Story continues after calculator.) 

Memphis teacher pay 2

Find your MSCS salary schedule


This year, teachers are moving up to the next step on the scale. Teachers who were beyond step 18 on the old scale remain at step 18 on the new scale.

Mental health workers are being put on a salary schedule for the first time.

Find all MSCS salary schedules below, according to district documents:

District offers bonuses to stymie teacher vacancies

The $78 million for the pay increases came from reallocations, plus new education dollars from the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement funding formula, called TISA, which takes effect this school year. 

Sustainability concerns prevented the district from putting more than $27.3 million in new funds into the salary schedule, said Tito Langston, the district’s chief financial officer. On average, teachers will see a 5% raise with its implementation, said interim Superintendent Toni Williams.

The other $50 million is funding bonuses for existing and new teachers, plus some general pay raises. 

Memphis teacher pay 3

Several Memphis educators qualify for bonuses


In efforts to fill hard-to-staff roles, MSCS is investing more than $14 million in the following bonuses:
  • “Critical need subject” teachers, including for special education and preschool: $5,000 to $15,000
  • English as a second language (ESL) teachers: $10,000
  • iZone retention bonus: $2,000
  • iZone sign-on bonus: $2,000
  • New certified teachers: $5,000
  • Teacher mentors: $2,000

More than $10 million in funds will go toward awarding teachers for performance. Current educators are eligible for performance bonuses between $2,500 and $5,000. Bonuses are determined this year from state testing data, rather than evaluation scores. iZone educators are eligible for $5,000 performance bonuses.

Athletics and performing arts staff will have increased stipends. Clerical assistants, education assistants, and special education assistants, plus bilingual mentors and school security officers will also see pay raises.

Negotiations with teacher unions yielded new pay scale

Both teacher unions — Memphis Shelby County Education Association and the United Education Association of Shelby County — bargained for the salary schedule as part of contract negotiations in January and February. The process was atypical for Tennessee, but offered by the district as a compromise

The two unions and district officials breezed through new agreements on bereavement pay, the grievance process, and health care. Salary negotiations took weeks.

With 18 steps, the new scale is more similar to surrounding school districts and previous Memphis pay scales than the 30-step scale that then-Superintendent Joris Ray implemented in 2021. That scale brought standardization to teacher pay that had drifted in the absence of an active scale. 

Teacher raises this year will vary, as educators are slotted into the 18-step scale. Once on the scale, salaries are more predictable. The scale could change again next year, however, after more bargaining in January between the district and the teachers unions.

Laura Testino covers Memphis-Shelby County Schools for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Reach Laura at LTestino@chalkbeat.org.

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